My journey with cancer. How much can one family endure?

Published 5:45 pm Friday, August 4, 2017

When I was diagnosed with cancer on July 25, 2016, I thought it was the worst day of my life.

Little did I know.

I haven’t provided an update in quite some time because, frankly, I’ve been reeling. As has my entire family.

At the end of May, my dear, sweet mama began her own journey with cancer. Her diagnosis was as big a shock as mine was a year ago. No one saw it coming.

So, this summer — which I had envisioned as a period to rest, relax and rejuvenate — has been anything but that. Mama was in the hospital during the month of June more than she was home; thankfully, she has stabilized and has settled into a routine.

We are both being treated at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center at Vidant in Greenville. One could not ask for a better group of medical professionals, all of whom have been warm, caring and considerate. Those who know me from my frequent visits were as stunned as my family the first time Mama was a patient there. They have since embraced her as well, which is making this horrible journey so much easier to bear. In fact, we joke with them that they should offer us a family discount.

Watching my mama endure this is so much harder than going through it myself. I’d do it 1,000 times over to spare her this pain. But as hard as it is, I have to trust God.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I have been strong throughout this latest chapter in my life, but I would be lying.

I have been angry, despondent and depressed. My faith has wavered.

To be honest, I’m not always a nice person. Along with watching my mama’s struggles, I have been dealing with lingering pain from my April surgery. Many nights the pain is so intense I have trouble sleeping. Doctors warned me that it could take a year or longer before I completely heal, but patience is not one of my virtues. It frustrates me when I have to cancel outings with friends, and my need to be independent is sometimes overridden by my physical challenges.

I have treated a friend or two terribly, only because they were handy. I am not proud of that; in fact, I am ashamed. I share this because, from what I’ve read, it is not uncommon for cancer patients to vent their anger and sadness on people close to them. It is something I have to constantly work to correct, but I often fall short.

Anxiety is my companion most days. Aug. 14 looms large; on that date I will undergo another test to determine if my condition has improved, stabilized or deteriorated. I have been subjected to dozens of tests over the past year, and it doesn’t get any easier.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. I challenged myself to be a positive role model for others battling cancer. I think I succeeded for a while, standing on a mountaintop and striving to make the best of a bad situation.

Now, I’ve tumbled off that mountaintop and rolled deep into a valley. Every day is a struggle. But I’m determined not to let it define me. With God’s help, and with the love of family and friends, I will bounce back.

Kevin Scott Cutler is a teacher assistant at Chocowinity Primary School, where the staff has provided much love and encouragement. He is also a frequent contributor to the Washington Daily News, another love of his life.